Wednesday, May 17, 2023
By Dr. Robert Bode
April was poetry month, so the Advocacy and Collaboration Committee posted weekly ideas, stories, and even favorite poems on their social media platforms to celebrate. Week one featured a poem by poet, author, and choral conductor, Dr. Robert Bode. This sparked a conversation – what better person to talk to about the important collaboration between text and choral music than a choral conductor/poet? You can catch the whole conversation in this April’s A&C Curated Podcast Episode (#153) on the “Music (ed) Matters” Podcast – but we also invited Dr. Bode to be the guest author for our monthly A&C Blog Post. Take it away, Dr. Bode!
Sure, when I go to a choir concert, I go to hear the music. I really do. But, without fail, what happens partway through the performance is that I start to wonder about the people on the stage. Are the singers enjoying themselves? Do they like the conductor? Does the conductor like them? I look for hints into the relationships of the people on the stage.
We go to see a concert as much as hear it. I think all of us can tell within a very few minutes whether the conductor trusts her middle school choir or not. Does she over-conduct? Are the singers fully invested in the story they are telling? Do they love singing for her? Are they embarrassed and uncomfortable?
I think we all do this. When my brother tells me that he drove from Palm Springs to L.A. to hear a Chanticleer concert, I ask him how he liked the performance. Oh, it was great,” he’ll say. “It’s fun to watch them kid the shortest tenor. They all seem to really like each other.”
“OK, but how was the music?” I’ll ask.
“It was beautiful. So polished. When they got to the Broadway tunes at the end, they really let their hair down and had fun.”
When I was Artistic Director of the wonderful Seattle choir, Choral Arts Northwest, someone would invariably come up to me after a concert and say, “It’s obvious that the singers love singing with each other!” I used to want to respond, “Yes, but what about the music? And the conducting? What about me? What about my phrasing?” I finally came to realize that our concerts were popular because the singers’ joy was infectious. Our audiences loved experiencing that connection.
The composer Alice Parker once said, “The goal is for the choir to sound like one person, expressing the text.” I think that just about sums up our job as choir directors: to enable the singers to come together, to agree on a common understanding of the music and the text. Our job is to facilitate this coming together, this community. When we do that, the music becomes meaningful. And the relationship of choir to conductor to composer to poet to audience becomes evident. And deeply powerful.
Even my brother can hear it.
Learn more about Dr. Bode: https://www.giamusic.com/store/artists/robert-bode
Get your hands on Dr. Bode’s book, “Hearts All Whole: Reflections on (Life and) Twelve Choral Gems” published by GIA: https://www.giamusic.com/store/resource/hearts-all-whole-book-10808
Watch this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/y_Q51h8Uzqs (or episode 153 on the “Music (ed) Matters” Podcast where ever you listen to podcasts).